American Airlines to cancel all remaining voluntary leave for flight attendants

American Airlines flight attendants who went on extended leave of absences during the pandemic will need to come back to work soon as the carrier works to meet an expected surge in demand as the coronavirus pandemic begins to wane. 

Brady Byrnes, vice President of flight service for American Airlines, said in a memo sent to all of the company's flight attendants Thursday afternoon that "increasing customer demand and new routes starting later this year mean we need more flight attendants to operate the airline." 

"That's why we're announcing the cancellation of all remaining EVLOAs," he added, referring to "extended voluntary leave of absence." 

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With the cancellation, approximately 3,300 flight attendants are expected to return to work by December, according to the memo. 

Flight attendants now have until July 29 to respond and bid for a "return to flying month," the company said. 

The Dallas Morning News had reported earlier Thursday that about 28,000 members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants were informed in a recent letter of possible leave cancellations from November to January. 

Voluntary leaves had been given to American Airlines employees to reduce losses after the company was hit hard by a severe drop in travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth-based airline offers up to a year of voluntary leave for flight attendants, with anywhere from a month to six months given to pilots. 

Additionally, both pilots and flight attendants have been offered early retirement packages. 

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While the more than 3,000 flight attendants on extended leave were initially not scheduled to come back until next year, a July 2020 agreement reached between American and the flight attendants union states that the company may give notice at least 60 days in advance that it will be canceling or reducing voluntary leaves. 

 

The company also said in its memo Thursday that amid the increased demand for flights, it anticipates that it will need additional flight attendants beyond the ones expected to return from extended leaves of absence.

"That's why we'll soon begin recruiting and hiring new flight attendants – about 800 by March 2022," Byrnes wrote. 

American has said that it is on a path toward recovery following the pandemic-induced decline in travel, which resulted in substantial financial losses for several airlines. 

Last week, American said its July 4 weekend traffic was three times higher than it was in 2020, serving nearly 2.7 million passengers on more than 26,000 flights from July 1 to July 5.

However, the company has also reported challenges in meeting the new demand for flights, announcing last month that it was canceling hundreds of flights until at least mid-July. 

American cited the uptick in travel, labor shortages and bad weather as reasons behind the cancellations. 

"We made targeted changes with the goal of impacting the fewest number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation,” Stacey Day, a spokeswoman for the airline, told The Hill at the time.

--Updated at 4:41 p.m.